Constituting Peace: Foreign Actors, Constitution-Making, and Armed Conflict

In the past 25 years, over 60 countries have adopted or amended their constitution during or immediately following an armed conflict. A majority of these constitutional changes were instigated as a part of a conflict resolution process, with active support from external actors. Given the significant influence that these foreign actors can wield in unstable contexts, a systematic investigation of their influence is crucial to understanding both peace and constitution-making outcomes. My project assesses how international actors support and advise constitution-making efforts and the role that international involvement in constitution-making can play in conflict management.

Using cross-national statistical analyses with an original dataset, expert interviews, and illustrative case vignettes, I assess how different types of international support for constitutional reform encourage different substantive outcomes. International actors form an epistemic community with shared values and ideas of what constitutional best-practices look like – this community frames the practice of constitutional advising and the substance of international constitutional support. First, I contend that international actors can impact constitutional substance indirectly, through their support of peace agreements, as well as directly when international actors explicitly support and advise the constitution-making process and substance of the constitution itself. Since questions about group autonomy, decentralization of power, and federalism often dominate conversations about civil war settlement and long term conflict outcomes, this project employs the examples of constitutional provisions on federalism and secession to illustrate the mechanisms that link international involvement with substantive outcomes. Second, I argue that constitution-making after armed conflict can reduce the likelihood of conflict recurrence by setting expectations for long term, aspirational change and by institutionalizing conflict termination and elite bargains into supreme law.

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